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Pitching coach's unexpected firing nothing new in baseball
By Marc Katz

Staff Writer

DAYTON | In baseball — probably other sports as well — you learn to deal with personnel changes on the fly.

Last Wednesday night, on an off day, Dayton Dragons pitching coach Larry Pierson was fired, called on the telephone by Johnny Almaraz, the Cincinnati Reds director of player personnel.

"You have to feel bad," Dragons pitcher Carlos Fisher said. "It's just like when a guy is released or sent down. This is the first time it's happened to me with a coach."

Most of the pitchers commiserated with Pierson in the parking lot of their Dayton apartment complex, continuing the discussion the next morning when the team headed by bus to West Michigan, and Pierson headed — alone — to his home near St. Louis.

"I didn't see it coming," Dragons closer Bo Lanier said. "He was a great guy. But this new guy (Pete Magre) is a very nice guy. It's just the nature of the business."

This is the nature of the business.

Lanier, who was drafted in the 10th round last summer, said just about everybody who dressed in his locker-room row (it's not exactly a clubhouse) at spring training is already gone from the organization.

"Jeff Stevens is a very good friend of mine," Lanier said. "When he was traded (as the player-to-be-named-later in the Brandon Phillips trade with Cleveland), I was very upset. You can't get too close."

Almaraz, the farm director, watched the Dragons on Monday and would offer nothing new on the firing except to say he wanted the pitching staff in Dayton run differently than it was run.

Pierson oversaw four starters — Johnny Cueto (since promoted to Sarasota), Zachary Ward, Travis Wood and Fisher, who were a combined 30-8 entering Monday's game, which the 7-2 Wood started. Yet the Dragons were 48-51 overall, meaning the rest of the staff was 18-43. Pierson, obviously, was blamed for some of that.

"I gave Johnny an earful when I was let go," Pierson said. "But I really thank the Reds for giving me the chance to coach with them over four years. I enjoyed the organization. I enjoyed the Dragons. I enjoyed Dayton."

Magre pitched in the Reds organization 10 years ago, reaching Class AA Chattanooga. He then pitched a year in Mexico before taking a job at the University of Incarnate Word in Texas. He has wanted to be a pro coach ever since.

"I finally got my chance," Magre said. "When I was pitching, Mack Jenkins (who was Magre's manager at one time and now is the Reds' minor-league pitching coordinator) asked me if I wanted to be a coach. I told him I wasn't finished playing."

He's way past finishing playing now and was hired only recently to help the Reds with their rehab players in Sarasota. He was there three days when the call came from Almaraz. There was an opening in Dayton. That's baseball.

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